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Dickon needs to make the case to the poor and vulnerable

In much the same way the brilliant young political leader made the case to police officers in Progress Park he must do the same to the poor and vulnerable before the election. The last time the National Democratic Congress (NDC) won the elections it was able to get a majority of working class votes.

This time around though the party may not be able to repeat that feat – NDC must get significant support from the poor and vulnerable segment of the electorate to win the upcoming elections.

This is why Dickon has to make the case to the poor and vulnerable why they should vote for the NDC.

Since the advent of universal suffrage in Grenada the poor and vulnerable have become a powerful voting block able to influence the outcome of elections in the post-colonial era.

Eric Gairy, the first populist post-colonial leader championed the cause of poor and vulnerable Grenadians and cultivated a ‘provider’ relationship in much the same manner as the relationship between the plantation overseer and ex slaves where the former provided for the material needs of the latter in return for loyalty, support and obedience.

Maurice Bishop, the charismatic revolutionary leader sought to lift the poor and vulnerable out of poverty by building their capability and empowering them to unlock their creative energies.

His aim was to build a society where all citizens, including the poor and vulnerable, have equal access to wealth and income.

The current popular incumbent leader has a similar ‘provider’ relationship with the poor and vulnerable except that his mantra is, ‘keep them poor they will love you more’, in other words provide through social programs such as the Imani and SEED only enough to help them eke out a living whereas Gairy broke down social barriers to give them access to opportunities that would improve their circumstances.

Both leaders in return expected loyalty and support from the poor and vulnerable. Whereas Eric Gairy connected with the poor and vulnerable through his charisma and demagoguery, the current popular incumbent uses manipulation of crisis situations, culture wars, and mamaguy to mesmerise the poor and vulnerable in order to extract their support.

Dickon must speak to and connect with this group of the electorate to attract significant support from them, if he is to lead the NDC to victory on Election Day.

He must not make the mistakes of previous NDC leaders who failed to connect with the poor and vulnerable, particularly in times of crisis, this gave the incumbent an opportunity to manipulate the situation and seize state power which he later used to create an extensive system of political patronage along the lines of the ‘provider’ notion to maintain a stranglehold on votes from the poor and vulnerable.

The last time NDC won the elections in 2008 the party was able to attract a majority of votes from the poor and vulnerable, however since that time the incumbent leader has been able to expand the system of political patronage targeted at the poor and vulnerable in exchange for support.

Previous leaders of the NDC rather than show empathy for circumstances of the poor chastised them for supporting the incumbent. Dickon must not make this mistake but instead he should directly engage this group in much the same manner he did with the police in Progress Park.

In doing so he must take a page out of Maurice Bishop’s playbook to free them of the stigma of dependency and inculcate a sense of self-worth, to settle for more than the ‘crumbs of pleasure’, and inspire them to unleash their creative energies that would help to lift them out of poverty.

He must outline his party’s programs that would provide for and help them out of poverty. He must tell them his intention is not to ‘keep them poor for them to love him more’ rather he wants them to love him for taking them out of poverty.

Dickon has to reveal the NNP’s contempt for the poor and vulnerable by highlighting past comments made by ministers like the ‘beggars are not choosers’ in relation to the Chinese built gazebo near the Grand Etang lake to Pamela Moses’ continued suffering comment some weeks ago.

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He must speak to the treatment of SEED recipients having to stand in the hot sun in long lines to receive their monthly payments and the many instances of corruption that have plagued the program which prevented more people from benefiting.

He must remind the people that SEED is an NDC project approved by the World Bank during its last tenure in office and remind them that the money they received is not NNP’s money but it belongs to the state.

Dickon needs to level with the poor and vulnerable, read their emotions and connect with them. He needs to let them know his early upbringing was no different to theirs, however he chose not to get stuck in the cycle of dependency instead he dreamt big and decided not to settle for less and if given the opportunity he will inspire them to do the same.

In an attempt to gain the trust of the poor and vulnerable Dickon should acknowledge the failures of past NDC governments to deliver on its promises and give assurances that under his leadership an NDC government will not only provide for them but make good on its promises to lift them out of poverty as well.

Dickon must connect with the conscience of the poor and vulnerable, many of whom are abused by the NNP, stuck in low paying jobs, underpaid, forced to eke out a living, and whose standard of living has not improved over the reign of the NNP yet because they are so heavily socialised to accept little or nothing, the ‘crumbs of comfort’ continue to vote for the party they so love.

He must cause them to be sufficiently moved to search their conscience and ask themselves – is this what I desire in life?

Although there is a sense that people want change and the race is tightening, the NNP’s firewall of support, consisting mainly of beneficiaries of the many social programs, is very strong.

To overcome this defensive wall, NDC must attract a massive coalition of votes from various segments of the electorate including the poor and vulnerable.

Leaders of the NDC in the last two election cycles failed to connect with them in a manner that would gain their trust and stir up emotions. In the last few days of the campaign Dickon must do so and peel off sizable amounts of support from this voting bloc if NDC is to win the upcoming elections.

Those who share the view that the current situation is similar to that of 2003 and 2008 are overlooking the stranglehold NNP has on significant sections of the working class and, although in the twilight of his political career, the incumbent leader’s ability to stir up their emotions through demagoguery and culture politics.

The colloquial words, ‘wey he de dey’ may sound offensive to middle class type voters but are attractive among the working class poor and vulnerable.

That stranglehold is even tighter today with subsequent generations that have become conditioned to accept less, the crumbs of comfort as normal since 2008.

Therefore Dickon must not make the mistake of Nazim Burke and others who treated the poor and vulnerable with indifference if he wants to win the election.

He must engage that bloc of voters in a direct conversation to empathise and enlighten them on their situation, and inspire them to consider their self-worth as being more than an occasional debushing or Imani job, to think big, break the chains of this dependency and release their true God given potential.

The great leader Maurice Bishop was not able to win over all of the poor and vulnerable however he attracted a significant number of them to the NJM to join a coalition of support from other segments of the population including the urban working class, middle class and business class that would overcome Eric Gairy’s firewall of support.

Dickon must do the same if he wants NDC to win the upcoming elections and become Prime Minister. He must reach out to public officers, nurses, youths and the business sector in much the same way he did to police officers if he wants to win this election.

Special Correspondent